How to Transplant a Rhubarb (and Avoid Transplant Shock)

I’m not a fan of pies, but rhubarb strawberry pie is an exception. I’m happy to eat anything that contains rhubarb. Maybe because it makes me nostalgic for my grandmother’s flakiest pies filled with rhubarb and scarlet berries from back in the day.

She seemed to take very little care of her stalks, and they consistently grew back year after year, but in all honesty, I’m sure she divided rhubarb plants as one of her garden chores. So, how and when do you divide and transplant a rhubarb?

Which Area is Best For Replanting Rhubarb? 

Rhubarb Plant

Rhubarb grows best in regions with direct sunlight. To ensure that your transplanted rhubarb has the best chance of growing well, keep it away from any shady areas of your garden, particularly those next to trees and shrubs.

Why You Should Transplant Your Rhubarb Plant 

Because they are mainly utilized in sweet desserts, the petioles and stalks of rhubarb are classified as a fruit. As a vegetable, rhubarb works well in pies, tarts, jams, and other sweets because of its high acidity. 

Rhubarb is a perennial plant that requires very little maintenance and will come back every spring. It might be time for freshening if your plant is older than a millennium. Why? Because of its age and toughness, the root will produce less-than-premium stalks. Rhubarb that has been transplanted gains fresh vitality. 

Approximately every five years, you should split and transplant your rhubarb Plant. Rhubarb plants that grow into large clumps tend to outgrow their original planting site, weaken, and produce smaller crops year after year. Rhubarb plants that grow into large clumps tend to outgrow their original planting site, weaken, and produce smaller crops year after year.

When To Transplant Rhubarb 

Transplant Rhubarb

To grow healthy, fruitful rhubarb plants, you must transplant the root or seedling at the proper time. 

To establish root systems and receive enough nourishment to produce edible stalks, rhubarb plants need time in the ground. When plants are transplanted at the wrong time of year, they become unproductive and may not make it through the winter to become active the following year. 

Healthy rhubarb plants should have their root crowns divided and transplanted every two to three years to maintain plant productivity. Before or after the growing season, in the fall or spring, is the ideal time to do this. To give these sections a chance to take root, they must be transplanted during a cool period of the year.

The best time to transplant rhubarb crown segments is in the spring, just as the earth is beginning to thaw but before your rhubarb plants begin to show signs of new growth. You can transplant rhubarb crown parts in the early fall or early spring. By doing this, the new plant will have time to form roots and eat enough of nutrients before the growing season begins.

If you are planting in the spring, add compost to the top of the soil and stir it in a little after preparing your planting holes. A heavy feeder like rhubarb will need a nutritious meal to get going in your garden.

If you decide to transplant in the first few weeks of autumn, cover the planting with a few inches of hay as mulch.  Protecting the plant from the upcoming winter is essential to have rhubarb in the spring and summer.

Tips That It’s Time For A Transplant 

Knowing when to transplant your rhubarb is simple. When it’s time to start your plants developing, look for these indicators: 

Early in the spring 

•Though above freezing, the weather is not yet warm. 

•The earth is starting to thaw, or 

There is no new growth on your rhubarb plants. 

Late summer until early fall: 

•The temperature falls to a “cool” level. 

•Despite not being frozen, the earth is not warm. 

Plants are displaying dormancy symptoms.

Items You’ll Need For Transplant 

Make sure your gardening tools are clean and ready. Clean the blades of your garden tools of dirt and debris before using them, and then dry them with a dry cloth or paper towel dampened with rubbing alcohol. Following this two-step procedure, you can prevent your rhubarb plants from contracting diseases. Here are some of the equipment you will require.

  • Shovel or a spade 
  • Hatchet or knife
  • Rubbing alcohol 
  • Compost

Transplanting Rhubarb 

1. Dig the Plant Up 

Dig at least 6 inches into the earth around the base of the rhubarb clump using your spade’s blade. To remove the entire root clump from the bed, slide the spade beneath the root mass and lever it backward. Aim to keep your hands off the roots, especially those close to the rhizome.

The thick, underground portion of the stem is known as the rhizome. A root ball is formed when the roots congregate after emerging from the rhizome. The roots can expand to a minimum length of 1 inch (2.5 cm). These roots can still grow if you unintentionally cut the ends of them.

2. Locate the buds. 

Find the rhubarb crown’s buds near the top of the root mass. Buds resemble swelling regions that represent a stem’s growing point. They will resemble the rest of the rhubarb but be smaller, pinker, and more fragile. Approximately 8 to 10 buds, depending on the size of the plant, will be visible. Every bud can develop into a different plant!

3. Divide The Roots

Before planting pieces of the rhubarb root ball in the ground, divide the root ball. 

Use a sharp, sterilized knife or a hatchet to cut the root mass into sections based on the age and size of the roots. Find two fresh buds, and use a spade to make a deep, root-level cut between them. Repeat the process after separating the two parts.

One rhizome, a few roots, and one bud should be in each clump. Make sure each portion has at least one bud and one significant root segment by cutting each section into pieces about the size of your fist. Different ones will have different sizes. However, they all have the potential to develop into robust, healthy plants if you take proper care of them.

Remove any components that have rot or decay. A fair bit of rot or decay is typical and does not indicate that a plant is ill. These areas will have a gray or black appearance and a slimy or mushy texture. Use good gardening shears to remove these. 

If the roots are rotten, the soil is too dry, or the rhubarb has received too much water. More serious conditions include bacterial crown rot, honey fungus, and root disease. Any crowns with illness should be thrown away. 

If you can’t transplant the parts right away, place them in a plastic bag or spread a plastic sheet over them to keep them wet while you prepare the ground for the transplants. Rhubarb roots typically have a three- to four-day shelf life.

4. Blend in Compost 

Prepare soil for gardening that has 50% compost in it. The rhubarb will receive all the nutrients it requires as a result. The greatest material is organic materials, like manure. If the soil previously housed a diseased plant, get rid of it and replace it with fresh soil.

A well-drained, slightly acidic bed that receives full sun or light shade should be tilled with a 6-inch layer of compost. Add compost to the top 12 inches of garden soil and work it in. Transplant your divisions into raised beds if your soil tends to be clayey. For each transplant, allow around 1 square yard.

5. Dig a Hole 

Make a hole with at least six hours of sunshine per day. Dig a planting hole twice as big and 4 inches deeper than the size of each rhubarb crown. Create a 2-inch-tall mound of earth in the hole’s bottom. It must be large enough to hold the rhubarb division, including the rhizome and bud. 

Make sure there are no weeds at the planting location.

6. Plant Rhubarb Plant 

Place the rhubarb root erect in the hole, with the crown bud about 2 inches below the soil’s surface. Roots should be draped down the mound’s sides. Add one inch of dirt to the top to shield the plant from the weather. 

Tamp the soil with your foot to get rid of any air pockets.

7. Backfill and Water 

Fill the hole with soil, pressing it firmly around the roots but keeping it away from the bud itself; then, thoroughly water. Maintain constant soil moisture by watering once or twice a week as necessary. Apply a 3-inch layer of straw mulch to the bed. Two to four weeks following the transplant, new growth starts to appear.

Tips for Harvest and Care 

Harvest Rhubarb

Don’t harvest any rhubarb stalks the first year after transplanting, despite how alluring it might appear. The second year of harvesting is modest, and the third year of harvesting is abundant. Rhubarb is harvested by removing the leaves before cutting the stalks at ground level. 

You can transplant rhubarb as early as six weeks before the last anticipated spring frost in your location because it tolerates frost. 

Only the stalks of rhubarb are edible. A poison in the leaves has toxic effects on people and animals.

1 thought on “How to Transplant a Rhubarb (and Avoid Transplant Shock)”

  1. Hi! We planted two rhubarb plants early this spring. It has grown beautifully over the summer. Now my husband would like to relocate it. I told him I think it might damage it since we just planted it this spring. Thoughts?

    We also have a few others in another location. The oldest one is about 4 years old and has never had thick juicy stalks. The others really haven’t either. What could be the problem with them? They get full sun.


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